GEEKNOTE: Intel announced this past week that it was getting out of the desktop motherboard business. This is a disappointment for us as Intel's warranty support is second to none, but it is not a surprise. The next generation of Intel desktop boards will be the last ones. The boards typically have an 18 month life cycle, so by early 2016, we will be building using motherboards from a different manufacturer. Intel has announced that they will continue to support their motherboards through the entire three year warranty period.
Over the past ten years, we've standardized on Intel desktop motherboards because they have been rock solid and backed by a three year warranty that has included overnight shipping of replacement motherboards with a prepaid return shipping label included with the replacement motherboard. We haven't had to use Intel's warranty service often, but it has been great when we have had a motherboard go bad.
The computer market has been changing toward smaller form factors for years. That is why we've been selling probably 15-20 mini-ITX based desktop systems for every full sized one for several years now. Intel has announced that they will be shifting their desktop motherboard resources toward their NUC (Next Unit of Computing) form factor (4" x 4") systems after the next generation of regular motherboards are released. We've been evaluating the NUC systems, but have been waiting for the cost of the required mSATA SSD drives to drop a bit further and the SSD capacities to increase a bit before pushing the platform. It is possible that Intel's decision to stop building conventional desktop motherboards will be moot in a couple of years anyway. I would not be at all surprised to see the NUC systems completely take over the desktop duties for everyone except power users.
The shift to notebooks and tablets is also playing a role in this decision. I believe that tablets in particular are going to continue to become more popular and probably cannibalize both notebook and desktop sales. The problem with both notebooks and tablets is that their complete integration is also their Achilles heal. If something breaks, it is very hard to fix them without replacing them completely and that is going to cost more than a typical desktop repair. Add that to the fact that portable devices lead hard lives and you can expect to replace a notebook or tablet more often than a desktop.
All-In-One desktops are also becoming popular. Many of the newer ones support standard mini-ITX motherboards, so they should be easier to maintain than either a tablet or a notebook. I expect the NUC form factor to show up in these systems shortly.
Part of Intel's decision was based on the fact that there are a number of excellent Intel chipset based motherboards available from other manufacturers. We will be looking at those options over the next couple of years as Intel winds down their motherboard manufacturing. For us, the key will be warranty support. We back our custom built systems with three year warranties and we will insist on solid three year support like we have from Intel going forward.
We aren't the only ones that will have to do explore motherboard options. Several of the big "brand name" computer companies use Intel motherboards too.
One of the constants in the technology field is that change is constant. Intel's change of focus is simply the most recent example.
The great news for me is that this means that I am going to be getting some new toys to play with. I love this job!
Feel free to drop me a note or give me a call if you have any questions about your computer.
Rob Marlowe, Senior Geek, Gulfcoast Networking, Inc.
(Rob also serves as deputy mayor of the City of New Port Richey. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent the position of the city.)